Last night, rumors on Twitter suggested the Atlanta Braves were in talks with a team from the NL West regarding a possible trade of Andrelton Simmons.
The Giants were ruled out, according to MLB Trade Rumors — and let’s be honest, they aren’t a fit anyway. They already have Brandon Crawford, who just beat out Simmons for a Gold Glove.
A general consensus leaned towards the Padres being the mystery team. However, if the Braves were to trade a guy like Simmons, one would think a condition of that deal would be the potential trade partner taking on a bad contract, like that of Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn, both due quite a bit of money in 2016. I’m not sure the Padres have the ability to take on that kind of financial dead weight.
That left me thinking the perfect spot, if the Braves are indeed looking to shed some financial dead weight, would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. Why? Well, for one thing, they have enough money to buy a small country, so taking on a bad contract and eating the money probably doesn’t hurt them too much. And their current infield lends itself to adding arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game (no offense, Crawford and Alcides Escobar).
“But the Dodgers have Corey Seager.”
Yes, they do. And Seager can play third base. In his 21 games and 192 innings played at short for the Dodgers this year, he wasn’t all that impressive in the field. I know, it’s a small sample size. But with four fielding errors and a throwing error in 93 chances, well, you could do a lot better. Simmons, for example, is a lot better. Seager posted a UZR/150 of -9.3 at short, which is not great. Of qualifying shortstops this year, it would have put him close to last last, with Marcus Semien and Asdrubal Cabrera the only two behind Seager.
Simmons, on the other hand, had a UZR/150 of 17.5, second only to Adeiny Hechavarria. He also led major league shortstops in 2015 with 25 defensive runs saved (DRS).
So what could the Dodgers do to make room for Simmons? If Seager were to make the move to third base, that allows Justin Turner to slide over to the right and man second base. Is Turner a great defender at second base? No, he’s not. In 952.1 career innings at that spot, he’s got a .977 fielding percentage with 12 errors. At the same time, his range over that stretch is pretty lousy, and his DRS for those innings logged at second base is a dreadful -19.
In an attempt to be a little more fair to Turner, let’s keep in mind that much of his time at second base came in small doses of 50 or fewer innings, with only three seasons surpassing that small amount of playing time. In 2011 he played 642.1 innings (-13 DRS), 2012 logged 91 innings (-1 DRS), and most recently played 108.2 innings in 2014 (-1 DRS). That adds up to 842 innings and a total of -15 DRS, along with a .975 fielding percent. So, still pretty bad.
Look at it this way, though: in 2014, the Dodgers had an infield defense that included (for the most part) Jimmy Rollins at short, Howie Kendrick at second, and Turner at third. I would think, with the departure of Rollins and Kendrick, Simmons could be a nice fit at short. If Seager can even play an average third base (translating to, in terms of 2015, roughly 2 DRS), they have a nice left side of the infield for the foreseeable future. Turner had 5 DRS in 774 third base innings this year. I think it’s highly likely Seager would outperform Turner at the hot corner.
If we take the Dodgers 2015 infield trio of Kendrick, Rollins, and Turner, the combined DRS is -14. Now, let’s give Simmons his 25 DRS from 2015 and add it to the career total for Turner at second base (-19 DRS). Next, I’m going to project Seager to play third at a rate somewhere around that of a Mike Moustakas (4 DRS) or Todd Frazier (6 DRS) and give him a 5 DRS. That gives the new Dodgers trio a net of 11 DRS for a defensive swing of 25 DRS, even with some lousy play by Turner at second base. And it’s not like the Dodgers can’t deploy a slick fielding utility man at second late in games.
So not only can the Dodgers afford to get creative in dealing with the Braves, they also have plenty of room for a shortstop who has averaged about 31 DRS over the past three years.
What we have yet to mention, though, is what the Dodgers could offer the Braves. Atlanta’s outfield in 2014 saw most of its at-bats come from the trio of Nick Markakis, Cameron Maybin, and Jonny Gomes. Markakis is a fine hitter, Maybin had something of a breakout year, and Gomes finished his season as a clubhouse presence for the Royals.
The Dodgers have a young outfielder named Yasiel Puig they seem like they might be okay parting with. According to a July report from MLB Trade Rumors, not long after telling Puig they would not trade him, the Dodgers then informed teams they would in fact be willing to listen to offers. With the other outfield options on the roster, the Dodgers might do well to move an outfielder for something more scarce, like a shortstop who will likely post a 3+ fWAR. According to that MLBTR report on Puig, “his less-than-inspiring play this year and a variety of off-field issues have raised some questions about his true value.” Would a change of scenery for Puig, who is built something like a cross between Bo Jackson and Mike Trout, help him mature and reach his potential? Maybe.
So, could there be a discussion of a deal built around Simmons for Puig? Who knows? But while the Giants have been ruled out, and the Padres have only been said to have “checked on” Simmons, that leaves us with three choices for an NL West mystery team: the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and the Rockies. In my opinion, the Dodgers have a lot more financial flexibility to get creative and pull off a blockbuster type of trade this winter, and it’s going to take something special to pry Simmons away from Atlanta.